Sunday, July 31, 2011

Christmas in July Wrap-Up

Miss Main Street and I just returned home from a 10-day trip to visit to my mother in Michigan and tour collge campuses (Miss Main Street will graduate from high school in 2013).  We drove from NJ out to Evanston, IL, by way of Pittsburgh, then back-tracked to Michigan before driving home yesterday.  I was able to post to my blog due to the miracle of modern technology but was not doing any major sewing. 

As a result, the only project I finished during my month long Christmas holiday sew-a-thon was the Misty Pines wall hanging.

I'm ready to put the borders on my Christmas stars quilt top then send it to the quilter.  Thank you for your advice on the border fabric choice!  I have an idea how to proceed and will show you how it all comes out.

During the trip, I worked on the wooly thingies for the wreath picture; I have a big pile completed and am almost to the point of putting them on the background fabric.

I'll be continuing work on these projects to get them done in August.  I have some other holiday projects in mind but think I might save them (or at least one of them) for the month of December. 

Lynn is almost finished with her Christmasy star quilt.  It looks fabulous!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gifts From Your Workshop

Being a "crafty type," I like to make presents when I can.  Of course, I don't have time to make gifts for everyone on my list, and not everyone appreciates a hand-made present.  I am selective about who I make quilts for (must appreciate both the quality of the work and the quantity of time spent, and not treat it like a bargain from T.J. Maxx), but I often make smaller items that take less time than a quilt.  Still, they do require some thought, to match the gift to the recipient. 

Here are some ideas.  Last year, I made some kitchen towels using fusible applique.  (The Joy design is from a Nancy Halvorsen Art to Heart book called Tidings.)  They make nice hostess gifts, a good alternative to a bottle of wine.  Or you could make a set of coordinating towels. 

Pillowcases make good gifts, especially for children when made out of novelty fabrics.  There are so many character lines out now, you can surely find the child's favorite thing.  There are numerous tutorials for pillowcases; just Google pillowcase tutorial and take your pick.

Early in the spring, I made myself a new tote bag, using a pattern called Practical Bag.  I used a vintage piece of upholstery fabric I had on hand, but you could use any sturdy fabric, including quilting cotton, making this a good stash project.  Practical Bag is an unstructured bag that is easy to pack for vacations and could even be used for groceries. 

Bags are a good way to use novelty fabrics, too.  How about a new tote made in this chocolate print, and wrapped with a few choice candy bars?

For my next project, I'll be using this cassette tape novelty print to make Miss Main Street a pair of boxer shorts (she wears them as pajamas).  She picked this fabric out during our vacation last summer!  Time to get those boxers made!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas Goodies From The Moda Bakeshop

Do you ever visit the Moda Bakeshop?  It is a great source of free patterns for quilts and other sewables from your quilting studio. 

Moda is celebrating Christmas in July with lots of interesting projects.  Lover of star quilt blocks that I am, I especially like this quilt, called Starry Eyed.   It was made using a line from Moda called Countdown to Christmas.  I like the contrast in the fabric between the white, red, and black.

I also like these stockings which were a project from 2009. 

And last year, I made Blooms in the Snow, using a Moda Bakeshop pattern called Sweet Menagerie.  This pattern uses a jelly roll plus some yardage for the white and the solid blue inner border.  But it could be made from scraps. 

What goodies are you cooking sewing up?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Auditioning Border Fabric

Sashing complete and main body of quilt sewn together.  I experienced my usual agitation over arranging the blocks:  can't have blocks with the same print too close together, must get the brighter blocks evenly spaced over the quilt....

This part of the quilt is 55" by 68" and Miss Main Street is doing her best to hold it up.  It still needs a border and I am undecided as to what would work best.  I was originally thinking a large print incorporating the reds and greens I used for the star blocks but have vetoed that as too likely to fight with the stars for attention.  I started thinking more subtle green or red prints. 

Option 1

For example, I could use this red tone-on-tone, the same fabric I used in the sashing.

Option 2

Or this green stripe, combining the lime green of the star blocks with a slightly darker green.

Option 3

Or this mini-holly print, which I bought for the blocks but did not use.

Option 4

Or this lime green striped tone on tone.

Option 5

Or this large green floral tone-on-tone.

Option 6

Then I thought, how about repeating the background, kind of like putting a wide white mat around the quilt.  I am leaning towards this option at the moment (but could change my mind any minute!), and using the red for the binding.  But I also like Option 5 for the border with Option 4 for the binding. 

Decisions, decisions...Please share your opinion if you have one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making Sashing

I completed 20 star blocks and am now making the sashing.

I used a single fabric for all the background in the star blocks (from a line called Jolly Snowmen by Clothworks) but different red and green mini prints for the corner squares.  For the sashing, I'm using the Jolly Snowmen background again, with one consistent red print.

Lots of strip piecing, re-cutting, and sewing...

I need a name for this quilt.  I'm thinking of 'Tis the Season.  Any other ideas?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Art To Heart

Looking for more Christmas project inspiration?  Nancy Halvorsen of Art to Heart comes out with a new Christmas booklet every year, always full of new ideas for quilted wall hangings and gift items.  Most involve fusible applique.  Last year, I made a bunch of these Joy Joy kitchen towels, from the Tidings book.  They make great hostess gifts. 

I made the base towel for my project but Nancy Halvorsen sells tea towels on her website in stripes and plaids that coordinate wonderfully with her line of fabrics (Benartex).  I've used her towels before and consider them a good buy at $3.35 apiece. 

My Art to Heart project for this year is supposed to be the Merry Christmas wall hanging.  I bought a kit during the 2010 post-Christmas sale at my LQS, so it is one of my PIGS.  If I don't get to it during Christmas in July, I'll do it later in the fall. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wool Applique

I've made a little progress on one of my other Christmas projects, this framed wreath.  Directions are in Sew Scrappy, an American Patchwork & Quilting publication from last fall. 

I'm making my version using a variety of shades of red and green wool.  I bought most of it from Attic Heirlooms when they vended at a local quilt show. 

Here are a few of pieces I've put together so far.  When I have a few more done, I'll start putting them on the black background. 

I've found wool applique to be not at all difficult (this project anyway), though it takes some practice to work up a rhythm and keep the stitches evenly sized and evenly spaced. 

Cottons n Wool has a nice tutorial on methods for wool applique.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding Your Christmas Project

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas quilting project books. First, Deck The Halls by Cheryl Almgren Taylor.

The projects in this book lean towards applique, though some combine piecing and applique and there are few that are piecing alone.  I like this mistletoe design; it is on my list but I'm waiting until I have more applique experience because the pieces are quite a bit more complicated than anything I have done so far.

I also like this banner.  The red house in the middle is similar to our house; probably as similar as I will find in an applique block!  I would like to use it somewhere, sometime.

Another good resource is Comfort and Joy by Mary Hickey. 

This book has a lot of projects, mostly pieced.  Ever since I bought the book, the page with Midnight Star has been bookmarked.  This pattern would make a good table topper for our dining room (it finishes at 41" square), or I could make more blocks for a larger quilt. 

Lynn is teaching a class on Midnight Star.  If I lived in northern California, I'd take the class and get it done!

Make Room for Christmas Quilts is by the founder of That Patchwork Place, Nancy J. Martin.  It is less of a how-to project book (though there are directions for several quilts) and more of a creative guide as to how to display and use quilts in your Christmas season decorating.  It is chock-full of ideas, with lots of terrific photography.  The decor tends toward the country and traditional so if you are strictly modern, it might not be to your taste, though many of the quilt designs could be "modernized" via fabric choice.  This book would make a great gift for a quilting friend (or yourself!), and though out-of-print is available on at a good price.

With so much inspiration and so many ideas, I could keep making Christmas quilts until Christmas arrives!  But there are other things I want to make too.  As I like to say, "So many quilts, so little time!"


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ohio Star Variation Quilt Block Tutorial

I have 12 star blocks finished; 8 more to go!

Here is a tutorial I put together (with lots of photos!) to show you how to make this star block.  It is a variation on the Ohio Star.

First, you need four fabric squares, each cut 5.5" square.  Two green squares for the star points, one square cut from your background fabric, and one square from the light contrast fabric. 

Additionally, you need the center red square, cut 4.5" square, four 2.5" squares cut from the light contrast fabric, twelve 1.5" squares from red fabric, eight 1.5" squares from background fabric, and eight rectangles, 1.5" by 2.5" from the background fabric.   

I found that laying all the pieces out on a block board helps tremendously with organization and keeping track of the steps.  I have six of these boards so can cut and work on several blocks at one time.

We'll make the center square-in-a-square first.  If you have another construction method for this that you like, by all means use it.  Just be sure the final piece comes out 4.5" square (4" finished size).

You need a marking pencil and ruler.  I like the Sewline mechanical pencils; they seem pricey but the lead lasts a long time and doesn't break.

Use the pencil and ruler to draw a line diagonally across each 2.5" square of contrast.  This will be your sewing line.  This construction technique is sometimes called "corner flip."

Place a small light contrast square in the corner of your red center square.  Sew across the corner on the line you drew.

Repeat with another contrast square on the opposite corner.

Using a ruler and rotary cutter, or pair of scissors if easier for you, trim off the corner a quarter inch from the stitched line.  I know some quilters think this method is wasteful but I think it is justfied by the accuracy.  However, I have been stitching the cut-off triangles into triangle squares and tossing them into this basket for some as yet undetermined future use.

Press your seams to one side or open (I like to press them open to reduce bulk); the result will look like this.  

Repeat with the two remaining light contrast squares on the other corners.  Your final square-in-a-square will look like this. It should measure 4.5" on each side.

Next, we'll make the star points, using the 5.5" squares.  We are using the four squares to make four quarter triangle squares, also known as hourglass blocks.  Again, if you are used to another technique, use it, as long as the final pieces are the correct size (4.5" uncut).

Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the back of both the background square and the light contrast square. 

Pair up the background square and a green square, right sides together, and sew a quarter inch from the center line you drew on the background square.  This is key; instead of sewing on the line, this time it is a guide and you sew a quarter inch to the right of the line.  Then turn the square and sew again a quarter inch from the other side of the drawn line.

Pair up the light contrast and the other green square and repeat, sewing on each side of the diagonal line you drew on the wrong side of the contrast square. 

Using scissors or a ruler and rotary cutter, cut along the drawn line; each square will be cut into two right triangles, like this:

Press them open, pressing seams toward the green fabric.  You will have four half-triangle squares like this.  Two have a triangle of background fabric and two have a triangle of light contrast fabric. 

On the squares that have the background fabric, draw a line on the back, from corner to corner, perpendicular to the seam.  Pair a background/green square with a contrast/green square, right sides together as shown.  Because you pressed the seams toward the green fabric, your seams will butt up against each other at this stage. 

You want to be sure the seams butt up tightly, without overlapping or leaving a gap.  This will ensure the four points meet in the center of the block.  Pin to hold in place. 

Sew a quarter inch from the drawn line, on each side of the line, the same as the step above.  Cut the squares apart on the drawn line.  You will have four pieces again. 

Press the seams to one side (does not matter which direction you press).  Your four squares should look like this:

Two opposing sides in the green star point fabric, one in the light contrast fabric, and one in the background fabric.   

Next, we trim the blocks to size.  I use the 4.5" fussy cut ruler from my Quilt In A Day Fussy Cut Rulers, but there are lots of other rulers out there specially for cutting quarter triangle square blocks.  You need a ruler that has 90 degree diagonal lines marked on it.  Line up the lines on the diagonal seams and cut to 4.5" square. 

Here is the trimmed square.  So far, it looks just like an hourglass block. 

Now for the radical part, the cut that creates the look of the star block.  Using a ruler (I am using a 6" square Olfa ruler here), you will trim the block down to 4.5" by 3.5" by trimming from the side with the contrast fabric triangle.  Don't trim the background triangle!

You are cutting an inch from one side.  (I know some of you are shuddering at the "waste" but this method is much easier than cutting out each shape using templates and then piecing individually.  Instead, you get this complicated look using easy techniques.)

You have five pieces of the final block finished; put them on your block board and see how it looks. 

(If you want to keep it simple, you can at this point use 3.5" squares of your background fabric for the corners of the block, instead of the pieced corners.) 

To piece the corners, lay out the small red squares and the remaining background pieces to form the corners.  Sew eight red squares to the ends of the eight background rectangles and four red squares between pairs of background squares.  Press toward the red.

Sew the three resulting strips together to form the corner squares.  I press these seams open to help keep the piece flat. 

Put the block together on your block board.  I sew the block together by working in rows across.

I chain piece without cutting the threads between the rows.  This keeps everything together in the correct sequence.  Press seams toward the star point blocks.  This will allow the seams to butt when you put the rows together. 

Sew the three rows together and press seams away from the center.  You have finished one block!

Now, start again and make another one!

You can change the size of the final block by varying the size of the squares used for the hourglass blocks; a smaller square will yield a smaller final block (you will need to downsize all the other pieces too).